Constructions at Pugu Hills

 

Building Construction at Pugu Hills

The design of Pugu Hills Nature Centre has been guided by curiosity, availability of building materials in the early 1990s and love for natural materials of the owners. Several solutions had to be tested in the Tanzanian environment and with available workmanship. Some where abandoned due to excessive maintenance requirement or inadequate performance. What is left has either proven durability or is still waiting to be replaced by more durable materials or more practical techniques. lorry with bamboo bamboo joint stairs

Some abandoned technology, "natural stairway", or "natural grass tatch" beautiful for the eye but not practical for Dar es Salaam.

Exposed timber is providing the "nature" feel but requires replacement every 5-10 years, even if treated with preservative. The concrete instead is less hassle but less pretty. After the original timber deck around the pool was replaced by concrete slabs, nature took control in the constructed water tanks as the ultimate solution for creation of a natural feel around the swimming "nature" pool. The last three pictures show the same location at the pool in 1997, 2008 and 2010.

The woven african beds around the pool menaced by bugs, were finally replaced by concrete ones.

The stairs to restaurant The stairs as we know them Tatched roof Exposed timber Exposed timber replaced by concrete Alternative for concrete slab for natural feel Minimum maintenance for the bed matrass still requiring alternative solution
   
At the time Pugu Hills was constructed from 1994 onwards, most building materials which are now available in the stores, were not there and local solutions had to be found. The design and construction creativity demanded had to include the furniture and spiral stair. The underwater light in the pool, the burglar bars for the front door etc. The chairs in the restaurant were made from flat bars and cowhides from Zimbabwe, inspired from a "Rietveld-inspired" chair seen in Amsterdam. Natural railing with carved tree trunks
All natural stone walls of the Centre were erected using stones from the premises. Like the retaining walls in support of the many terraces are gravity walls except for the entrance wall to the camping hills which is made of rammed earth protected against erosion by sandstone on the outside. gravity retention wall
   
The use of local sandstones reduces cost and at the same time provides a natural feel and "couleur locale". The gravity weir is a solid and simple solution for blocking water providing that there is a basement rock as foundation. The concrete is poured in between the stone walls and with enough space, additional stones are mixed with the concrete which reduces cost. The gate for the camp hill has stone walls and a solid rammed earth core. The stones protect the rammed earth from eroding during the rains and memorise ancient building techniques, which may soon be forgotten in Dar es Salaam. Most of the earthen walls with coral stone in the city centre are demolished like in the Samora Avenue. Gravity weir with concrete core and natural stone walls

The bamboo is the dominant construction material at "Pugu Hills". This incredible lightweight but strong material is becoming almost forgotten in Tanzania. The people living on the northern shores of Lake Nyasa, the Wanyakyusa were the major growers of the Golden or Common Bamboo (Bambusa Vulgaris) Their houses, stores and even chicken houses were traditionally made of bamboo which they successfully grow around their homesteads. The bamboo flourish well in the wet and hot plains north of the Lake and the culms reach diameters of 6 inches and more. The main bamboo structures at "Pugu Hills" only had some 3-4 % of the bamboos replaced or repaired during 20 years. Planting of Bambusa Vulgaris which also does very well in the Pugu Forest could be an idea for the future when the forests has lost its plant diversity status. The impressive clumbs of bamboo in the reservoir valley of the forest indicate the suitability of some areas for bamboo production.

Treatment with toxic preservatives is a disadvantage of using bamboo and makes it less suitable as village technology. Bamboo as fuel is a more promising application and will be tested soon in Tanzania.